Cold is a Relative Thing and Making Things Up (Video)

Winter weather in Alberta is an exercise in relativity. When the temperature  first dips to just below freezing (-1C or 30F), it feels cold – but it feels warm compared to the day when it gets down to -10C (-14F). Inevitably, the really COLD weather will arrive – which it did with a vengeance just a few days ago.

-27C is -16F; -34C is -29F

Anything below -20C is really cold.  -20C, -27C,  -34C. No more relativity – it is all just really, really cold. The forecast says it will warm up by this week-end, but do they really mean that? Watch the video below:

I took some photos when it was a balmy -10C.

Frost Covered Trees
Frost covered trees with a Topaz Studio filter called oil.
Macro photo of frost crystals.
Frost crystals with a Topaz Studio sharp filter.

If you are a regular reader, you will wonder why I’m still in Alberta and not soaking up the sun in Arizona. The answer to that is – some times one door closes but another ten open. On the closed door side, the ‘Rona virus and various levels of government made it much less appealing to travel – (though not impossible). On the open door side – at our Alberta house there is a ‘Never Ending Reno’ list, enough craft and hobby supplies to last a lifetime, family to visit as soon as this lock down is lifted and the always enticing prospect of an early start to gardening season! Yah!

Is it still winter where you are? What is the coldest temperature you saw this year? How accurate are the weather reports where you live?

Fall Colours – Cotoneaster

Two more plants that grow prolifically in our woods are the Cotoneaster (it is such a temptation to call it a ‘Cotton Easter’ bush…) and the wild raspberry. Both arrived in our woods from bird droppings.

Red Cotoneaster leaves, green wild raspberry leaves
Topaz Studio Line ink filter
Topaz Studio Telbarion014 filter

Plant Profile
Common Name: Cotoneasters (pronounced ‘co_TONY-aster’)
Scientific Name: Cotoneaster; family Rosaceae
Growth: Full sun to partial shade; very adaptable to both dry and moist locations; hardy to zone 2A
Blooms: Clusters of shell pink flowers along the branches in mid spring

Fall Colours – Dogwood

Red Twig Dogwood
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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
-Albert Camus –

Plant Profile
Common Name: Red Osier or Red Twig Dogwood
Scientific Name: Cornus spp.

Dogwood, which can be native to Alberta parkland forest understories, is a relatively easy bush to grow. It has interesting flowers in the spring, nice berries in the summer, great fall colour, and beautiful bright stems for winter colour.

We have several on our property. They arrived via bird droppings. I think that is quite amazing, actually. Who knows how far away the bird was when it ate some seeds (berries) from a dogwood. The seeds had to have been at just the right stage of ripeness. Then the bird flew some distance and pooped on a piece of ground that was a receptive host. The dogwood seed had to germinate, put down roots, and out muscle the plants around it in order to survive.

This year the dogwood got big enough for me to see it. It is about 3 feet (1 meter) high. It is not too far from a path I walk regularly – not hard to miss when the leaves turned bright red.

In contrast, there is a red-berried elder on our property that grew to be four times that size before I finally discovered it. It was delivered by bird poop too, but not in a location that it can easily be seen.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man.
-Author Unknown –

Fall Colours – Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper
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Topaz Studio Cartoon filter

Plant Profile
Common Name: Virginia Creeper
Scientific Name: Parthenocissus quinquefolia

This vine is a prolific deciduous climber, reaching heights of 20–30 m (70–100 ft) in the wild. It climbs smooth surfaces using small forked tendrils tipped with tiny strongly adhesive pads 5 mm (3⁄16 in) in size.

We have Virginia Creeper growing, under strict supervision, in two locations. The one in the photo is in a large planter box. It has been growing there for 20 years or so. I shear it back a few times each year so that it doesn’t take off across the patio and out onto the driveway. If left to do what it does best, it would engulf a small car in just one growing season.

The other location is next to a quonset steel building where it (and six of its siblings) are supposed to climb up the side of the building. To date, the strong adhesive pads are not having much luck climbing the shiny metal. Maybe next year.

Fall at my Alberta Home – Aspen

Trembling Aspen Leaves
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Plant Profile
Common Name: Trembling (Quaking) Aspen
Scientific Name: Populus tremuloides

Trembling (aka Quaking) Aspen is the most widely distributed tree in North America, and is known for the distinctive rustling sound its leaves make in the breeze. It is also the preferred wood for that most Canadian of animals – the beaver. These industrious creatures use it as a food source and as the main structural wood in their dams and houses.

Trembling Aspen reproduces by root propagation. This creates clones of the original tree, which can produce pure stands covering a large area. The clones are considered as one individual so these colonies are some of the largest and oldest living organisms on the planet.
– Canadian Woodworking and Home Improvement –

We have a four or five stands of these trees on our property. Each stand has dozens and dozens of trees of various ages. This was an exceptionally good growing year for them because we did not have many aspen leaf roller caterpillars. Instead, there are dark spots on the leaves – perhaps a fungus of some kind. Aspen are susceptible to many insects and diseases, which is why mother nature gave them the ability to grow up fast to compensate for the fact they die relatively young.

Trembling Aspen – fighting for domination with the spruce trees
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Trembling Aspen stand – no spruce trees to compete against
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Lady’s Slipper Orchids

I’m not really finished my ‘Time Off Break’ – I just forgot that this post was scheduled. The timing is good though. These orchids, which grow in a rural ditch, were ready to bloom in the next few days – but the county mower came through yesterday and chopped off their heads.

I know it is probably not the best time of year to transplant them, but I picked out two small clumps and dug them out of the ditch. Hopefully they will survive in my yard! If yes, I’ll post pictures!

Photo altered with an HDR filter in Topaz Studio
Photo altered with a Fine Wine filter in Topaz Studio
Photo altered with a Contrast filter in Topaz Studio

My Story about these Alberta wildflowers is at Lady’s Slipper Orchid – No Match for the Mower

Bald Eagle – Canada

Bald eagles are not really bald; the name comes from an older meaning of the word – “white headed”.
The largest eagles are in Alaska. Large females may weigh more than 7 kg (15 lb) and have a wing span of 2.44 m (8 ft 0 in).
The average lifespan of bald eagles in the wild is about 20 years.

Original Photo – Bald Eagle – west coast British Columbia, 2014

You can’t hoot with the owls and then soar with the eagles
– Hubert H. Humphrey –

Black and White Filter
HDR Filter

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.
– Carl Sandburg –

Grunge Filter

All filters can be found in the Topaz Studio program.

More eagle pictures and information: Arizona Bald Eagle

Another Moose

I told my niece that I saw a moose on the way to work this morning
She said, “How do you know he was on his way to work?”
– Author Unknown –


Not so long ago, a pair of Moose ambled across the field behind our house. The moose (not meese or mooses) stopped for a short while, contemplated something, then moved on. (This was the best I could do, photo wise. The light was not great, nor was the weather…)

Fast forward to last week. I was at our local Canadian Tire store, and what do you think I saw? A moose – and not just any moose. A genuine Canadian moose dressed in red Trooper’s Hat, plaid shirt and a sporty scarf – with a Rudolph Nose!

Portrait of a Moose

Showing great restraint, I didn’t buy the moose. I did buy two strings of Christmas lights, though. Two days later, I realized I needed one more string of lights… and guess what? Apparently I needed a moose too, because there it was, right where I had left it in the store. Waiting patiently, glassy eyes sparkling, red nose acting like a beacon as it drew me down the aisle of this, that and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t need or want.

Moose with an HDR filter

Did I need a moose? No, of course not. Did I want something that makes me smile every time I look at it? Well, maybe. Did I have a vehicle in the parking lot big enough to carry a small moose? Well, yes I did. Was The Car Guy willing to carry the beast through the store and out into the parking lot? Well, yes he said he would.

Moose with a cartoonish filter

Does red plaid clash with my decor? Not at all.
Going, going, gone – another Canadian Tire Moose gets a home!

Moose needs a name. I’m thinking ‘Bruce’. What would you name this moose?

Green and Yellow with a Blanket of White

We had 10 inches (25 cm) of early season snow last week. The best thing about this is that it is the wake-up call for what is going to come when winter arrives for good.

Winter Morning Poem – By Ogden Nash

Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue!
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing.
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.

Ten inches of snow looked like this:

Topaz Studio HDR filter
Abstraction filter
Telbarion Filter
Impasto filter

Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet who wrote over 500 pieces of light verse. He used unconventional rhyming schemes and was declared the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry!

Do you know any other Ogden Nash poems?

Chaos in the Garden

This is one of my flower beds. It has been over 20 years in the making. In that time, a small tree grew – casting more and more deep shade. The plants that liked sun weren’t so happy about this. Some died – I thought. So I planted others, only to have the dead sometimes reappear (yes, tulips, I’m talking about you and your splashes of red in a bed that once was yellow, blue and purple!)

This year I gave up on order and accepted plant Chaos. Even chaos will take time, though. There are bare spots where some things, like my bleeding hearts, all died this past winter. As George W. Bush said:

Topaz Studio filter “Ghost Town”

What George Bush actually said was “…And, you know, it’ll take time to restore chaos and order – order out of chaos. But we will.” Some media outlets shortened the quote to “It will take time to restore chaos” which triggered the usual crowd to make fun of him – but I think the shortened quote perfectly describes my new gardening mantra.

Topaz Studio filter “HDR”

Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
– Henry Adams –

Topaz Studio filter “Rock”

Chaos is roving through the system and able to undo, at any point, the best laid plans.
– Terence McKenna –

Topaz Studio filter “3D Sketch”

Chaos is not the lack of order, it is merely the absence of order, that the observer is used to.
– Mamur Mustapha –

Topaz Studio filter “Abstract”

All of these photos were altered with Topaz Studio filters.

What say you – which photo is most chaotic?